Tag Archives: intercultural

Viewing the Ukraine Crisis From Russia’s Perspective


James Joyce’s famous statement that “history is a nightmare” from which we should try to awake, aptly describes current events in the Ukraine.  All nations involved in these events are biased by the remembered, misremembered, forgotten, and mythologized history they carry in their heads.

Source: www.counterpunch.org

 “Our national memories have the passion and power to drive us blindly to hatreds and to war”

History is actually biased opinions based on popular stories that people believe as facts and do not challenge. Those stories are used to exacerbate our patriotism: “our stories” versus “the “enemy stories”. Stories are used in propaganda  to manipulate the public opinion toward a common goal : eliminating the “enemy” and to consolidate political power, financial interests etc.

For example, Hillary Clinton, on March 5, said that Putin’s concern for Russians in Ukraine is like Hitler’s concern for Germans in Poland and Czechoslovakia.

This is a very good example of manipulation:

Labeling Putin as “Hitler” is a sure way to activate a demon in the American national memory and to mobilize the United States to again fight the evil personified (just like Saddam Hussein, Fidel Castro, Chavez, Allende or Gaddafi , to name a few of many leaders that have been called “Hitler” by American politicians)

Russians are looking at Ukraine as increasing the threat of being invaded. After the collapse of the USSR, many previous Soviet republics in Eastern Europe are now members of NATO with military bases. Ukraine and Belarus are actually the last soviet republics that are not EU members.

Each era of  Russian history has had its military super-power, and each super-power in turn attacked Russia: Turks, Poles, Swedes, French, Germans, British, and Japanese have each invaded Russia more than once.

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Why employers value intercultural skills


New research shows that employers around the world value staff who understand the role of culture at work. Source: www.britishcouncil.org

What do employers understand by ‘intercultural skills ?

  1.  Ability to understand different cultural contexts and viewpoints.
  2.  Respect for others’ and ‘adapting to different cultural settings
  3.  Accepting cultural differences
  4.  Speaking foreign languages
  5.  Open to new ideas and ways of thinking

 How do employers evaluate job candidates for intercultural skills?

  1. Strong communication throughout the interview and selection process
  2. The ability to speak foreign languages
  3. Demonstration of cultural sensitivity in the interview
  4. Experience studying overseas
  5. Experience working overseas

 What Is Your Company Doing To Develop Intercultural Skills ? 

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Where are you really from ? An Expat Perspective On Racism


Womanblackman

I found the question in this article very interesting:   Is It Racist to Ask People Where They’re From?
As an expat, I am asked all the time where are you really from ?  and I usually have different answers for different audiences. However to many expats, they don’t feel comfortable with this question especially if they have been living in a foreign country for quite a long time and interpret the question as obviously you are not from there, you are different.
After 25 years of expatriation, I still have some mixed feelings about this question but sometimes it is good to feel different and not from “here”.  Being a French in France is actually harder for me than living abroad, I don’t know anything about popular TV shows or the secret lives of French politicians and I have often a very different view on sensitive questions as I am living on the “other side”.
When I lived in Japan in the 90s I obviously did not look Japanese and I have been asked frequently where I was from, but at that time, being French and saying I was from Paris, were magic words and I was very well treated both at work and with perfect strangers in the streets. I was kind of “exotic” there. However Caucasians were better treated than non-Japanese Asians, especially Chinese, Koreans or Filipinos.
In the US, when I lived in New York City and 8 months pregnant, strangers were giving me a “god bless you” very often, then we had the 9/11 dramatic events and my son was born 12 days later. However I got unpleasant remarks when I said I was French because at that time the French president and the government refused to send troops to Baghdad as if I had anything to do with this decision.
Altogether I had a very positive experience in NYC. I also lived in Atlanta and we were very well-integrated partly because of my son being at the Atlanta International School but generally speaking, Atlanta is a very international city. However I was shocked to see that nothing really changed since Martin Luther King Jr, I saw a lot of segregation between African-Americans and White Americans. Each community including Latin American people had their own neighborhood with very strict boundaries. I then realized that America was far from being a melting pot !
Then we spent one year in New Jersey and it was painful to have in the neighborhood listing “the French” instead of our family name.
Now we live in Russia, I don’t have any specific problems with racism, the “where are you from? ” is still there since my Russian is pretty basic but unlike the stereotypes, I find Russians very courteous with men giving their seats to women in the Metro for example. But here again even for wealthy expatriates,  it is better to be a Caucasian than having a dark skin color.

How do you feel about being asked : where are you really from ?

Related Article:  Encountering racism abroad — or why I sometimes wish I was white

Intercultural Communication at Work


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In this globalised world, communicating in intercultural contexts is not as easy as it may seem…

Anne Egros‘s insight:

When you don’t understand someone’s behavior in intercultural context, ask questions, don’t guess through your own perception.

Be aware of your own cultural bias is a good start then listen to other people and notice similarities or differences on how messages are perceived and understood by making sure there is no misinterpretation either in words, voice tone or body language.

Good demonstration at the end of this article using Anglo-Dutch Translation Guide.

See on www.spaces.nl

 

Culture Is Like A Mayonnaise


Culture Is Like A Mayonnaise

The popular ‘Iceberg model’ of culture developed by Selfridge and Sokolik, 1975,  identifies a visible area consisting of behavior or clothing or symbols and artifacts of some form and a level of values or an invisible level.

Recently Milton J. Bennett, Director of Intercultural Development Research institute, suggested to remove this metaphor from the vocabulary of intercultural professionals in his blog Culture is not like an iceberg. Personally I like the iceberg metaphor but the Interculturalist Christian Höferle thinks too that it is a bit too simplistic and offers some interesting suggestions in his blog :Wanted: A 21st century metaphor to explain culture

Mayonnaise I came up with the idea of “mayonnaise”, a water in oil emulsion, to represent culture. What you first see in a good mayonnaise is a homogeneous yellowish cream. But in fact if you look at it under a microscope, it is made of small drops of water with different sizes and shapes dispersed in a homogeneous oil phase. If you include oil too fast then the 2 liquids separate. If you pour and whisk oil slowly, the water drops get smaller and the preparation becomes thick and stable.

 EmulsionundermicroscopeFactors-Affecting-The-Ease-Of-Formation-And-Stabil-58

 Most people know that water and oil don’t mix together and that you need other ingredients such as emulsifiers to have a stable mixture looking homogeneous from the outside.

 I like to compare droplets of water (coming from egg yolks with some vinegar or mustard) with different shapes and sizes as individuals who share same culture. They are defined as a specific cultural group because they have in common a set of rules, thinking process, behaviors or other cultural norms, that are invisible but highly powerful. In the Mayonnaise metaphor those “invisible” bonds are the emulsifiers, like the lecithin. The oil can represent the most obvious and visible component of the culture: Geography, language for example.

So in short,  culture is not only what you see but you need deep immersion to understand what makes people unique and yet what holds them together by explicit and not so explicit  cultural rules or norms.

How about you ? Do you have a better metaphor to explain culture ?

Anne Egros, Intercultural Executive Coach

This blog has been inspired by an article published  by Rana Sinha How to understand cross-cultural analysis?. I have summarized Rana’s key ideas and added my own sources of information

Origins and Evolution of Cross-cultural Communication.

 Typically anthropologists and social scientists tend to study people and human behavior among exotic tribes and cultures living in far off places rather than do field work among white-collared literate adults in modern cities. Advances in communication and technology and socio-political changes started transforming the modern workplace yet there were no guidelines based on research to help people interact with other people from other cultures. To address this gap arose the discipline of cross-cultural analysis or cross-cultural communication. The main theories of cross-cultural communication draw from the fields of anthropology, sociology, communication and psychology and are based on value differences among cultures. Edward T. Hall, Geert Hofstede,Fons Trompenaars, Shalom Schwartz

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Cultural Map of the World: Using Values To Explain Cross-national Differences


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Anne Egros‘s insight:

The World Values Surveys were designed to provide a comprehensive measurement of all major areas of human concern, from religion to politics to economic and social life.

Two dimensions dominate the picture: (1) Traditional/ Secular-rational and (2) Survival/Self-expression values.

These two dimensions explain more than 70 percent of the cross-national variance in a factor analysis of ten indicators-and each of these dimensions is strongly correlated with scores of other important orientations.

The results of this type of surveys must be used with caution as people behaviors are changing pretty fast based on economic development, new technologies, globalization and communication tools such as internet or mobile phones.

Other theories of cross-cultural communication are drew from the fields of anthropology, sociology, communication and psychology and are based on value differences among cultures. Edward T. HallGeert Hofstede, Fons TrompenaarsShalom Schwartz and Clifford Geertz are some of the major contributors in this field.

My Favorite tool is the Five  Hofstede’s Intercultural Dimensions 

See on www.worldvaluessurvey.org

 

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